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Oyster, the Netflix of e-books, now offers more than 500,000 titles

Oyster, the Netflix of e-books, now has more than 500,000 titles
For $9.95 per month, Oyster offers subscribers more than 500,000 e-books

Oyster, an iPhone and iPad app that gives users unlimited access to its catalog of e-books for $9.95 per month, announced that it now has more than 500,000 titles available on its service.

The New York start-up launched to much acclaim last September, hailed as the Netflix of e-books. But at the time, the service provided users access to only 100,000 e-books and was available only on the iPhone.

Since then, Oyster has launched a corresponding app for the iPad, and it has slowly been building up its catalog of e-books. The service received a boost of more than 10,000 new books on Thursday, thanks to an extension to its partnership with HarperCollins.

Among the new titles added to Oyster on Thursday are "Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter, "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin and "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman.

"As we add new content, that makes the service more appealing to subscribers, and as we add new subscribers ... that in turn makes it more attractive for publishers to put more content on Oyster," said Eric Stromberg, Oyster chief executive.

Stromberg declined to say how many subscribers the service has. Instead, he said Oyster's users read 45 minutes per day on average. He also said that the service plans on expanding to Android later this year.

But the New York start-up must overcome large obstacles if it hopes to succeed in the world of e-books, which is currently dominated by Apple and Amazon.

Though Oyster now features 500,000 books the users can read endlessly, Apple and Amazon both offer catalogs with more than 2 million titles each. Apple and Amazon users must pay per book, but they have a larger selection to choose from. It also doesn't hurt that Apple and Amazon have more well-established brands.

Oyster also faces competition from Scribd, a service that offers readers access to more than 300,000 books for a slightly cheaper $8.99 per month. Scribd launched its subscription service in October, and it is available on both Apple iOS and Android devices.

Stromberg is aware of these challenges and said that Oyster can build a base of passionate subscribers by creating a service that is drastically different from its rivals. To do this, Oyster has placed an emphasis on having an app that delivers great design and a great experience that provides users with personalized book suggestions. 

"We feel this creates a very differentiated product," he said. "And that's allowed us to build a base of readers that we've been able to grow over time."

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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